Interview: NFL Analyst, Michael Robinson, Keeps It Realer Than Most When It Comes To Life And Football
The 2015-16 NFL season is sadly nearing its end, but it's getting down to the nitty gritty part of the season where playoffs are soon underway. As the best of the best gear up for their intentions to head to Santa Clara for the golden showdown of Super Bowl 50, it all can’t go down without the expertise of an NFL analyst. And who better to talk to than a Super Bowl champion himself? Former Seattle Seahawks fullback turned NFL analyst, Michael Robinson, is dishing on all that is football from his perspective, of course.
But it’s not all fun and football games for Robinson. The Penn State alumnus is surely all about his business and knows that there’s more to life than just the game. After turning in his cleats for a suit and a spot on the NFL Network, Robinson gets realer than real on what he hopes other football players hope to gain outside of the sport that they love.
Here, he chats it up with VIBE on the importance of possessing a backup plan, what he has learned from his career experiences, and some of his boldest predictions on what ‘s possible to come on the unpredictable road to Levi’s Stadium for the biggest day in American sports. So before you dig your jerseys out of your closets and invite your friends over for a playoff party this weekend, check out Michael Robinson’s take on everything that is football from both on and off the field.
VIBE: With it being an early offseason for many teams who didn’t quite make the playoff picture this season, a lot of those same teams have been hit with the injury bug to their biggest stars. What would be some tips that you would suggest for those who’ve been injured to get through rehabbing, the comeback stages and getting back into the groove of working out at a high level once again?
Michael Robinson: Most often times people tend to think that: “Oh, I just had a long season. I’m sore. I’m tired. And I know that I don’t have a game next week so I’m going to take some time to relax, I’m going to get some rest.” There is some value to that, but in actuality for football players and other high performance athletes, movement is key to you. You don’t want to be just sitting around. So I tell guys who come off of a long season, especially if you’ve had some injuries or whatever to not just shut it down because you’re not playing for anything next week. Still continue to work, still continue to get some movement. You might not be going in there hitting it like you’re getting your body to play for Sunday but you still need the movement. You still need to get your body going. A lot of young guys don’t understand that, they think they can sit around and drink and party or whatever and just let loose. And sometimes in some of those things are not good and not conducive for healing.
With football being such a heavy impact sport and under a constant microscopic lens for various safety concerns, there are many pros and cons to playing in the league. What do you believe are the biggest risks and rewards for being a professional within the NFL?
Well obviously the risks from a physical standpoint like concussions or getting hurt and the rewards with being able to financially carry yourself, carry your family. I will dig a little deeper that our game, culturally, is sending the wrong message to the young, black or the young minorities. Often times in our communities that we’re told that the only way out is to be a professional athlete, a rapper, or something like that, so you see these kids spend their entire life preparing for the National Football League when you have a better chance at winning the lotto but yet you spend your entire life preparing to play in the National Football League. You’re working out and you’re doing all of these things, but nobody prepares you to have sustainable skills once your playing days are over. And that’s whether you’re lucky enough to play in the National Football League or whether you’re lucky enough to play on the collegiate level. It can require so many resources and so much time to get to the league to be a pro to stay there and maintain. I tell guys all the time, when you get there, when you’re drafted and you’re on the team, work like hell to find something else that you love because the stopwatch literally has started. I spent eight years in the National Football League, I’ve been to the Pro Bowl, I’ve been to the Super Bowl, I’ve been a Super Bowl champion and I’m only 32 years old so now what? And I don’t think that many young kids understand that. You have to have some type of sustainable skills. Even if you do make it to the highest level and even if you do make some money, the money will run out. What’s going to keep you going forward?
"They still don’t know the value of a dollar. They don’t know how to work the dollar. They don’t teach us that in school. In our communities, they don’t teach that and half of our parents don’t understand it so you have to have a plan and take responsibility for your life." —Michael R.
You experienced a career-threatening health scare that resulted in a shutdown of your kidney and liver in addition to a significant amount of weight loss towards the end of your playing career. Talk about how that situation put matters into perspective for you from a personal and professional standpoint.
I’m always about succeeding in life. I always see things in the bigger picture so not necessarily making decisions for just being good in football, I don’t make decisions to just be good in broadcasting. I make decisions to be successful in life. When my kidney and liver shut down because of the prescription medicine that I had gotten from the team, I was sad and I was messed up because I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t ready for it. As soon as I got released, I started calling up my contract for networks because I didn’t think I was going to play football again. I thought it was a wrap. I have four kids and a wife so I don’t have time to sit around and sulk about being cut. And again, we’re always going to be cut before we know it. Before we even know that we’re going to get cut. So we’re always going to be done before we physically are. And my whole thing was just because I got cut doesn’t mean that it is the end of the world. That doesn’t define me. My thing is about being successful in life so what it was all about what’s next and the next thing that took me was broadcasting so I started there. Yeah, I got a call to be back on the team but it laid the foundation for where I am now for what I can do for the next 30 years.
Many NFL players enter the league without much thought put into what comes after their playing days are over. You, on the other hand, were prepared from the start by receiving two degrees from Penn State University. Based on your own path by going straight from retirement to transitioning over to being an analyst, how important is it to you to have a backup plan?
It’s huge. That’s the reason why I went to Penn State, as you mentioned, where I got both of my degrees in public relations and broadcast journalism. That’s why I went there to, again, be successful in life. I went to Penn State where they had a great football program, I had a great coach. Yeah, I made it to the National Football League on the football side. But I also looked at how roughly 1,200 of graduates from Penn State are the biggest alumni network in the world. So when you think about higher education and being successful in life and not just being successful in the football world, I couldn’t turn that down. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to have a rolodex of alumni from all over to be able to help me get out because again, I want to be successful in life. I’m thinking about the next 30, 40, 50 years of my life, so I think it’s very, very important that guys have something else that they love. When you make football your life, eventually that’ll be over and when you make football your life and that’s over then that doesn’t mean that your life is over. I think it goes back to that deep-rooted cultural factor that parents push their kids so hard as their only way out and in a way, it sets them up for failure in the event that if they don’t make it to the National Football League because these kids aren’t thinking about anything else, they aren’t setting up a backup plan.
I’m thinking about education because they still don’t know the value of a dollar, they don’t know how to work the dollar. They don’t teach us that in school. In our communities, they don’t teach that and half of our parents don’t understand it so you have to have a plan and take responsibility for your life. My foundation, Excel 2 Excellence, we teach kids in our mentorship program and we teach them to take control of their lives so they don’t look back to say what teacher held them back or say that they wish they would’ve did this, they wish they would’ve done that. When I first got to the National Football League in 2006, I went to a club in San Francisco. I was about to go in there to party or whatever. First of all, I was standing in a line and I couldn’t believe it because I’m like: ‘I’m a pro football player. Why am I standing in line?’ I get in there and I notice all the tables, all the VIP and it wasn’t any football players, it wasn’t any basketball players, it wasn’t any Warriors or anything like that. I saw people in there that could be doing their job for 40 years. Right then and there in the middle of that club in 2006, I said: ‘Woah! I have to make sure that I’m setting myself up to be doing something like that!’ This football thing is not sustainable. No way I can do that for the rest of my life. So that gives a little context.
Two years after ending your playing career on a high note to win Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle, the Seahawks are back into playoff contention after a shaky start to the season. Do you see your former team making their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance this year especially with the caliber of Russell Wilson’s play throughout this season?
It definitely can happen. They’ve gotten hot at the right time. Russell Wilson has matured into a superstar quarterback who is carrying the league up out of a pocket and that is amazing. It’s hundreds of thousands of kids, I run a little league football team in Richmond, Virginia, and there’s hundreds of thousands of kids who need a guy like Russell Wilson or they need a guy like Cam Newton to continue to light the league up. I honestly think they have a great chance at getting back by them getting hot at the right time. They’re playing the kind of football that’s scary around this time but I don’t see a team in the league this year, the AFC and the NFC, that doesn’t have their flaws. The Seahawks definitely have their flaws. Any team can lose on any given day in the National Football League.
Bold prediction time. Who do you think is going to make it out of the AFC and who’s going to make it out of the NFC?
I can’t even lie to you. At the beginning of the season, my Super Bowl predictions were Indianapolis and Seattle. You know what happened to Indy, they’re just not even anywhere near being in the playoffs. There just honestly isn’t enough information to give my prediction right now. I watch a lot of film and there just isn’t information available to make that educated guess right now. But I will tell you one thing. Seattle, Carolina, Arizona; they play a brand of football that can get them to the Super Bowl. New England, Denver plays the brand of football that can get them to the Super Bowl on the AFC side.
For some, the MVP race might be a tight one. Others believe that Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton, is the clear cut winner this season. Who’s your choice of who’s walking away the Most Valuable Player along with two possible runner ups?
If it’s not Cam Newton then the award is a sham. I know people have Tom Brady or people have Carson Palmer—and Carson Palmer is possibly playing the quarterback position better than anybody in the league right now including Russell Wilson. But in August, if you had asked me and said, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Carson Palmer, do you think that they would be in the MVP race? I would say yeah, that they would be. If you would have told me Cam Newton with the loss of his number one wide receiver, with one of his cornerbacks going up to Pittsburgh, with DeAngelo Williams not being here anymore. The style of football in which they play and you would’ve told me that Cam would be in the MVP race, I would’ve said: ‘Not a way in hell!’ In that statement alone lets me know that Cam Newton is winning MVP. He means that much to that team.
Black Monday has come and gone this week, where teams like the Eagles, 49’ers, and recently the most notable with Tom Coughlin wrapping up his 12-year tenure with the New York Giants, will be starting over with a new coach next season. It might be too early to tell, but out of all of the current coach-less teams, which do you think will have an easier time bouncing back to get back on the winning track?
The New York Giants. They have a quarterback that’s 70% of their battle and Eli has at least five or six years left of football left in his body. Then you have to look at ownership. The Mara’s and the New York Giant owners are patient, they’re a patient group. They’re not like these new owners who only give coaches a few games to turn it around. The Mara’s are patient, they’re from the old school like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rooney's. They don’t overreact to two or three bad seasons because they have a structure where the head coach has input on the players and on the scouting and they already have a structure firmly in place. From a marketing standpoint, to being able to make money from a coach standpoint, the New York market is very attractive and then you’re playing in a very weak division of the NFC East. So there’s a lot of fluff that goes into it.
The 2016 Pro Bowl is right around the corner. What are you looking forward to the most from this year’s festivities?
It all depends. How do they have Odell Beckham and Josh Norman on the same team? Like how does that go? With them being on the same team, with them being in practice together, how does that go? I do know that there was some crazy things said out there on the field that will probably be said again. I just think that whole situation will be explosive. Not going to necessarily say that I’m looking forward to it, but it’ll be definitely something that I’ll be paying attention to.